Comfort Food: What’s to Eat in Isolation Housing at Pitt?

  • A lunch bag with a banana, sandwich, and drink
    A typical lunch delivery may include sandwiches, fruit and drinks. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Plastic-wrapped packages, including popcorn
    Meal deliveries to students in University-supported isolation housing aren’t just about the food. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • A person in a face mask and blue hat prepares cups of mixed fruit
    Carrie Hoelkel packs fresh fruit for students in University-supported isolation housing. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • A person in a face mask and blue hat packs a bag
    Carrie Hoelkel and Mike Edmondson package dinners for delivery to students in University-supported isolation housing. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • A plastic container with dinner inside
    What’s for dinner? Among the recent choices was Texas-style brisket, red beans and rice, Southern-style green beans and a mixed green salad. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Staff in face masks prepare a long line of meals assembled on a table
    Meals are prepared fresh at a kitchen located in the Petersen Events Center. Left to right, Jeffrey Matuizek, Ed Norman and Debbie Wade serve up dinners to be delivered to students in University-supported isolation housing. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • A mix of greens and vegetables arranged into cups on a table
    Asian slaw was among the recent menu choices delivered to students in University-supported isolation housing. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • A person in a face mask and apron putting slaw into cups
    Sandra Zukowski prepares cups of Asian slaw for delivery. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • A pile of snacks on a brown table
    Students arriving in University-supported isolation housing will find their room pre-stocked with a variety of snacks, plus basic food items, frozen meals and plenty of drinks. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)

As a kid, staying home sick might have meant getting toast and ginger ale on a tray and watching cartoons all day.

The stakes are higher during a pandemic, and for Pitt students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or were in close contact with someone who tested positive, isolation or quarantine is a must in order to keep from spreading the virus.

Proper nutrition and plenty of fluids play an important role, and in University-supported isolation housing or in quarantine living on campus, students don't have to go it alone while they rest and recover.

In addition to daily check-ins with medical professionals and a support team to assist with other needs, Dining Services staff ensure that these students receive deliveries of tasty meals tailored to their preferences, and that they have plenty of snacks and fluids at hand.

a blue, white and gold graphic that says "Is one of your Pitt friends in quarantine or isolation? Help them stay connected. Send an updated text to let them know you care."Students who quarantine on campus or go into University-supported isolation housing receive a dining preferences form where they can indicate their dietary needs. “Meeting each student’s needs is our top priority while ensuring safety in everything we do,” said Joe Beaman, Pitt’s director of dining services.

To provide students with customized meals, they’re asked about food allergies as well as about any dietary needs, such as whether they follow a faith-based diet; are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or have other dietary restrictions.  

When students arrive in University-supported isolation housing, they find a room equipped with a refrigerator and microwave, and pre-stocked with plates and utensils as well as a variety of snacks, food items, heat-and-eat meals and plenty of drinks.

Regular meals are prepared fresh on campus and received through no-contact delivery twice daily, said Beaman. “The noontime delivery is a hot lunch plus snacks and beverages,” he said. “The 5 p.m. delivery is a hot dinner plus the following morning’s breakfast.”

To demonstrate their commitment to food quality and variety, dining administrators have been auditing meals several times each week, Beaman said. That means an order is placed for a fictional “new student in isolation” as a test. 

David DeJong who, as acting senior vice chancellor for business and operations, oversees dining operations, recently audited a day’s worth of isolation meals himself.

Aware that students at other colleges have made national headlines with social media posts about meals they’ve received while isolating or in quarantine, “I want to make sure we are doing everything possible to support our students,” he said.

His review? “I was very impressed with the food,” DeJong said. “It was fabulous grilled barbecue chicken for lunch, a savory well-balanced meal for dinner and a continental-type breakfast, plus plenty of drinks and snacks.”

Likewise, Pitt students who have posted their food deliveries on social media using quarantine-related hashtags aren’t displaying meager choices, but rather an abundance of food and drinks in the brown bags they’ve received.

DeJong added, “I am deeply impressed with Compass, our new food-service provider. Working closely with Joe Beaman and his team, they are providing a wonderful array of dining options for our students, and the food is really of high quality.” 

Read more about what students should expect if asked to quarantine (based on exposure from close contact) or isolate (if experiencing symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.)

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